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Ryanair Hurdle - 29th December, 2014

Hurricane Fly showed there's still life in the old dog yet as he landed another Grade 1 prize by winning the Morgiana Hurdle and the Willie Mullins-trained superstar will lock horns with Jezki once more in a fascinating renewal of the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown.

The former fought off the reigning Champion Hurdler with a real scintillating turn of pace in that Morgiana and he will be aiming to replicate that over the festive period at an Irish venue that will also see the Lexus Chase take place a day early in a real Christmas cracker.

Jezki is sure to come on for that first outing of the season and will be aiming to get the better of Hurricane Fly, who has won this race three times before, but he will need to improve and it's sure to be an intriguing clash as they eyeball each other in the closing stages.

There's a huge chasm in the betting after these two heavyweights and Tiger Roll is aiming to recapture the form that saw him win the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, whilst Elite Hurdle winner Purple Bay is entered, but he is also pencilled in for the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park.

Of the others, Arctic Fire could be another to line up for the red-hot Mullins team that will unleash a whole plethora of stars over the holiday period, whilst the likes of Plinth and Alderwood are another duo that could take their chance in what is an intriguing race.

Latest Betting for 2014 Ryanair Hurdle

8/11 Hurricane Fly

11/8 Jezki

16/1 Tiger Roll

20/1 Purple Bay

20/1 Arctic Fire

40/1 Alderwood

40/1 Plinth

100/1 King Of The Picts

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Ryanair Hurdle History

The December Festival Hurdle is a Grade One race run at Leopardstown over two miles for horses aged four years or older and is widely regarded as a trial for the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

An integral part of the Irish hurdling season it often attracts the leading Irish two-mile hurdlers, who are often using it as a springboard to both the Irish Champion Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Trainer Paddy Mullins was a phenomenon in this race during the 1980's as he managed to saddle the winner five years in a row with Grabel winning the race three years running.

Down the years there have been some top class winners of this event and looking through the stellar names on the recent winners board, there is one that stands out and that is the mighty Istabraq.

Aidan O'Briens wonder horse managed to eclipse Grabel's record and win the December Festival Hurdle on four occasions in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2001 before going on to dominate the Champion Hurdle scene in the UK & Ireland.� Not only did the JP McManus-owned gelding win the Irish Champion Hurdle four times, he also won the English Champion Hurdle three times to etch his name in hurdling history.

Other names that have bagged glory in this contest include Moscow Flyer, who won the race in 2000, but became more famous for his exploits over fences becoming a dual Queen Mother Champion Chase winner.

Brave Inca bagged a brace of victories in the December Festival Hurdle in the mid 2000's and managed to go on and bag Champion Hurdle glory in 2006, whilst Hurricane Fly was arguably the most impressive winner as he sauntered to success in this contest in 2010 before annihilating a strong field in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Recent Winners of December Festival Hurdle

  • 2000 - Moscow Flyer
  • 2001 - Istabraq
  • 2002 - Liss A Paoraigh
  • 2003 - Golden Cross
  • 2004 - Macs Joy
  • 2005 - Brave Inca
  • 2006 - Brave Inca
  • 2007 - Al Eile
  • 2008 - Sublimity
  • 2009 - Solwhit
  • 2010 - Hurricane Fly
  • 2011 - Unaccompanied
  • 2012 - Hurricane Fly
  • 2013 - Hurricane Fly
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